SCOTUS Will Hear California Forced Abortion Speech Law

Nov 13, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Supreme Court has agreed to review the California Reproductive FACT Act, which compels pro-life crisis pregnancy centers to post notices regarding the availability of free and low-cost abortions in their physical clinics, printed material and online. The Court agreed to hear National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, one of four cases brought by crisis pregnancy centers challenging the law as a violation of the First Amendment guarantees of free speech and free exercise of religion. 

Liberty Counsel's case, Mountain Right to Life v. Becerra, and the other two cases, will be held at the Court until it resolves the NIFLA case, likely in spring 2018. The ruling on the NIFLA case will apply to the other three cases. The NIFLA case, the first of the four cases to reach the Supreme Court, is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom. The other three cases are represented by the Pacific Justice Institute, American Center for Law and Justice and Liberty Counsel.

The Court agreed to review the NIFLA case on the limited question of “whether the disclosures required by the California Reproductive FACT Act violate the protections set forth in the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment.” Liberty Counsel will file an amicus brief on behalf of its clients in support of the NIFLA plaintiffs.

Liberty Counsel represents three pro-life crisis pregnancy centers in Southern California, all of which offer women experiencing crisis pregnancies resources, counseling, advice and alternatives to abortion. All of the centers are faith-based and will not refer women for abortions. Under the California law, His Nesting Place (Long Beach), Pregnancy and Family Resource Center (San Bernardino), Birth Choice of the Desert (La Quinta), and all licensed and unlicensed pregnancy counseling centers in the state are required to post the following government-prescribed message in their facilities and in their advertising or be fined $500 for the first violation and $1,000 for each additional violation:

California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care and abortion for eligible women.

Centers not licensed by the State of California must post a notice that they are not a licensed medical facility.

Liberty Counsel challenged the law in federal court on behalf of the three pro-life pregnancy centers on the grounds that the law violates the United States Constitution's guarantees of freedom of speech and free exercise of religion in the First Amendment. In that case, a federal district court judge and a three- judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Liberty Counsel's request for a preliminary injunction, finding that it was not likely that the law violates the First Amendment.

“The California law forces crisis pregnancy centers to speak a message that goes directly against their religious beliefs and mission to save lives,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “The First Amendment protects the right to speak and the right not to speak. This unbelievable government mandate forces pregnancy help centers and staff to be puppets of the government and channel the state’s abortion message. We are hopeful this forced speech law will be overturned by the Supreme Court. It is common knowledge that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is the most reversed federal court of appeals in the country,” said Staver.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.